tagHow ToHow To Drive Faster Safer

How To Drive Faster Safer


If you're reading this, then you are an A type personality, one who enjoys driving in the fast lane and enjoys passing all the slowpokes.

"Move over. Get out of my way, Grandpa."

No doubt, you even think you are a superior driver, better than most, except for those professional racecar drivers that you see on television, Formula One, Nascar, and Indy. If only you had the chance, you'd even show them what you can do.

Well, I'm here to give you a few pointers to not only help you drive your car faster but also to drive your car safer. First of all, to all those who are driving pickup trucks, mini-vans, full sized vans, and SUV's, allow me to give you the best advice that I can. Slow down. Yeah, I know you have big V8 engines that have mega horsepower, but your vehicles aren't meant to go fast. They are more meant to carry heavier loads and to pull a trailer. Sorry. Also, this how to story is not all the information that you'll need to know to drive faster safer. It's just a brief introduction, the rest is up to you.

For the rest of you cowboys and cowgirls who love speed and have a lead foot, this how to drive faster safer story is for you. If you haven't already, the first thing you should do, before you buy those big, useless 20" wheels, is take a professional driving class with a professional driving instructor. Yeah, they are expensive, but worth every penny, especially if it ends up saving your life and the life of someone else, not to mention the bodywork of your car. It's a worthy investment.

By the way, just as an aside, if a crash is inevitable and you have a choice where to crash your car, a tree, a pole, another vehicle head on, or a wall. Pick the wall. Usually hitting trees, poles, and other cars head on are, more than likely, fatal accidents. Chances are, you'll have a better survival rate and of walking away from the crash without a scratch, when hitting a wall.

Why? The force of the crash is spread out and dispersed over a wider area. Trust me, I know. I've hit two walls and demolished two cars testing the airbags and walked away with nothing more than soreness, stiffness, shock, and bruises.

Yeah, both accidents happened before learning how to drive faster safer and, in both instances, I was driving too fast for the road conditions. Nonetheless, even though both accidents were more the fault of the other driver, I still accept responsibility for thinking that I was a better driver than I was. I was lucky I hit a wall in both accidents. Better that I totaled my cars than killed myself or someone else.

Back to the story. Why should you waste your time and money to take lessons from a professional driver? You already know how to drive. Yeah, but you don't know how to drive faster safer and that hasn't stopped you from driving fast unsafely, now, has it? The first thing that a professional driving class will teach you is how much you don't know. Driving faster is more than hitting the apex on a curve.

Let me give you an example. Do you remember seeing all those high speed chases on television, most of which were in LA, the car capital of the world? Why do you think 99% of the speeders were unable to get away from the police. Yeah, they use helicopters to track them, but police officers are required to take professional high speed driving classes. They not only know how to drive, they know how to drive faster safer. Unless that police car chasing you is in disrepair or has a blowout, you aren't going to get away from him or her.

I took a Grand Prix course nearly 25 years ago and it opened my eyes. It was a weekend course with the famous Bob Bondurant. Young, dumb, and full of testosterone, I thought I was a hotshot with my '85 Mustang GT. Back then, there weren't many cars that could beat it, especially for the price that I paid for the car new, $12,000. Twenty-five years later, at $35,000 a Mustang GT is still one of the top dogs in that price range, a fun car to drive fast, and, to my biased ears, it sounds better than anything on the road, except for a Ferrari.

Mr. Bondurant taught me how to balance and brake a car without flipping it or skidding it sideways. The key to driving faster is to drive smoother and the way to drive smoother is to always drive your car neutrally balanced. When you brake, the weight of your car transfers to the front wheels. When you accelerate, the weight of your car transfers to the rear wheels. When you take a hard right, because of centrifugal force, the weight goes to the left side of the car and the opposite when you take a hard left, with your weight going on the right side. The art of driving faster safer is to maintain the weight in the middle, neutrally balanced, and the way to do that is to feel what your car is doing, when it is doing it, and before it's too late.

Even after you finish taking your driving class, you aren't going to drive like the professional drivers. To get the crazy speed they need to win, professional drivers drive on the edge of disaster, constantly but momentarily driving their cars in an unbalanced condition to pass or to make their move before resuming their smooth driving techniques. That's the difference between racecar drivers and us, they not only are professional drivers but also they are extraordinarily talented.

Bob Bondurant taught me how to drive smoother, the key formula in how to drive faster. At a time before computerized anti-lock brakes, traction control, and anti-skid control, to drive fast we had to depend on the seat of our pants and not computers, which brings me to tires and seats. You can't drive fast with all season tires or, God forbid, snow or mud tires, just as you can't drive fast in an unsafe vehicle, one that has bald tires, shot brakes, springs, and shocks.

You can't drive fast safely with underinflated or over inflated tires. It's imperative that you buy a good tire gauge and check the air in your tires regularly. Just like it says in the Michelin tire commercials, your tires are the only things holding you on the road. You dig? If you plan on driving fast, you need performance summer tires for better traction and braking. Without top tires, you're a passenger and not a driver.

Another aside, raise your hands. How many of you, who live in the snow belt, put snow tires on your car? Very few. I figured as much.

All season tires are a compromise. They aren't as good as high performance tires in the summer and not nearly as good as snow tires in the winter. I don't care if your car has front wheel, all wheel, or four wheel drive, I'll drive circles around you in my 4 snow tired shod rear wheel drive car. Do us all a favor, if your car is shod with all season tires, slow down and move from the high speed lane, so that I can get by you Thank you in advance.

You can't drive fast without a good seat. The first thing that I did when I bought my car was to remove the driver's seat and install a Recaro seat. Yeah, they're expensive, about $1,200, but they are worth as much as having a Herman Miller Aeron chair for your office, which I do, too. Not to mention I also have a Tempurpedic mattress, a necessity and one that I highly recommend, but that's a topic for another story.

I know I'll catch a lot of flack with this statement, but you can't drive fast in a front wheel drive car. Yeah, I know there are plenty rice rockets that will blow my doors off, no doubt. Yet, I prefer my rear wheel drive car and have blown the doors off of plenty of Subaru WRX's, Mitsubishi's Evo's, and Mazda Speed 3's with it.

When my car speaks to me, I've learn to listen to what the car has to say. Besides, when all things are equal, driving fast is more the driver than it is the car. You can put a professional driver in a underpowered car and what he'll lose on the straightaway, he'll make up for in the curves and in the twisties. The average, non-professional driver, a driver who had never taken a high speed class, will have a difficult time keeping up with someone who knows how to drive faster safer.

Do you know what happens after you complete a professional driving course? Instead of driving faster, you drive slower. It's true. It happens to everyone. Why? Because with more to think about, you now have more of an appreciation of what it takes to drive faster safer, namely balance and smoothness. Moreover, now that you know all the things that can go terribly wrong in the blink of an eye, not only are you a more knowledgeable driver but also a more careful one.

Trying to always maintain the balance of the car, while driving smoothly, is why you suddenly drive slower. You are driving, as if you're a new driver, while trying to implement all that you have learned in your professional driving class. In time, you'll not only drive smoother but also you'll driver faster safer.

I know enough to know how much I still don't know. What I do have is an appreciation for a professional driver, such as Bob Bondurant and his ilk. After all of us hotshots drove around the Grand Prix course his instructors worked so hard to lay out, after we demolished most of the orange cones, Mr. Bondurant piled all twelve of us in a 15 passenger, full sized van, a big mother of a top heavy van. Then, he proceeded to drive that course with all that extra weight that none of us had in our Mustang GT's. Without so much as squealing and lifting a tire, by keeping that van balanced and driving smoothly, he beat the best time. Wow. I don't know about you, but I was impressed.

There are some basic things that we all can do to drive faster safer. Follow the speed limit when in traffic. Driving in traffic is not the time to go fast. Too many things can go wrong too quickly.

Don't drive in the pack. Either drive ahead of the pack or allow the pack to pass you. Most accidents happen while you're stuck in a pack of cars and have nowhere to go but to crash into the car in front or beside you.

Don't tailgate. Keep a safe distance, at least a car length for each ten miles you are traveling and even more, for the reaction time you need to brake, the faster you are going. Believe it or not, but there are some people out there looking to get hit for the insurance.

Always give yourself an option. I prefer driving in the far right lane when I'm not driving in the high speed lane because I have that extra lane to maneuver should someone in front of me lose control of their car suddenly.

Never ever drive when you've been drinking. Even the best driver will think that he or she is a better driver and will take risks that they wouldn't ordinarily take, after only two drinks. If you're out drinking, give your keys to someone who isn't drinking or better, leave your car home and take public transportation or a cab.

Before you even start the engine, check your tires and check your mirrors. Now, that you're in the car, get comfortable. You don't want to be sitting on top of the steering wheel or too far away from the steering wheel. If you're a little person, a small woman, when that airbag pops out at your face, you're going to get hurt. You want to be at a distance where your arms are bent just a little, enough to be comfortable. If you can't reach the peddles, get peddle extensions. They have them. Lastly buckle up and lock your doors.

Did you know that in an accident, if your doors are unlocked they will more than likely fly open and throw you from your car? A locked door will not open. If it does, your relatives can sue the manufacturer on your behave, after you're dead and buried.

I used to box as a kid and my boxing instructor taught me to look my opponent straight in the eyes. Let me tell you, it's difficult not to blink when there's a jab coming at your face but, after a while, you learn not to blink. My boxing coach said that if you keep your eyes focused on his eyes, you can see all you need to see with your peripheral vision. The same principal applies to driving, especially on the highway, the safest place to drive fast, by the way. The fastest you travel the more tunnel vision you have, which is why you need to look so far ahead because by the time you look there, you are there.

Look far ahead. Trust your peripheral vision to see the rest of what you need to see. I know some of you drive while talking and, God forbid, texting. I don't talk on my cell phone when driving, especially not when driving fast. Instead, I prefer holding my steering wheel with two hands, at the 3 and 9 o'clock position.

Matter of fact, most times, I don't even listen to the radio. Yeah, I know, shocking for those of you who really aren't drivers. Yet, for those of us who are drivers, we'd rather listen to our exhaust and listen to hear what the tires are doing on the road than listening to Sports Talk Radio or Bon Jovi.

Another thing, I never drive without eyes and ears. My eyes are a good radar detector. I have a Valentine One and my ears are a CB radio. As long as you return the courtesy to truckers and tell them how the road looked over your shoulder, the truckers will always let you know if there's a bear parked along the side of the road.

Yeah, sure, radar will pick up 95% of the speed traps, but too many cops now beat those who drive with radar by using instant on radar, radar that is only on for a second, enough to bag you and too late for your radar detector to signal you a warning. Then, there's those low flying planes that call ahead to an unmarked car parked on the side of the road.

I hope this little how to story has given you enough information to want more. For those of you who can't afford the three to six thousand dollars to take a professional driving class, there are cheaper one day classes that will give you the basics. Also, there are plenty of books and DVD's on the subject.

In the meantime, slow down, stay to the right, and just let me pass you. I'm a professional. I know what I'm doing. Do not try this at home.

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